US House to vote on massive Defence bill on Wednesday, Democrats divided - GulfToday

US House to vote on massive Defence bill on Wednesday, Democrats divided


Tourists pose for a photo in front of the US Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. Yuri Gripas/ Reuters

The US House of Representatives is due to vote on Wednesday - and likely pass - a $738 billion Defence bill setting policy on everything from family leave to fighter jets, despite opposition among some Democrats who control the chamber.

The Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committees announced their compromise version of the annual National Defence Authorization Act, or NDAA, late on Monday, after months of negotiations.

The announcement eased concerns the legislation would fail after passing for 58 straight years. But details of the massive bill, the first NDAA since Democrats took control of the House in the November 2018 election, disappointed some of the most liberal-leaning Democrats, who promised to vote against it.

The fiscal 2020 NDAA increases Defence spending by about $20 billion, or about 2.8 per cent, and creates a Space Force as a new branch of the US military, both key priorities for Republican President Donald Trump.

But the compromise NDAA does not include several policy planks the House included in the version of the bill it passed in July.

Those include a provision that would have barred Trump from using military funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and a measure that would have ended all support for the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen.

“I was very disappointed that the NDAA, which has a huge price tag, $738 billion, was stripped of all of the progressive priorities on foreign policy,” Representative Ro Khanna, one of the progressive Democrats who said on Tuesday he would be a “no” vote.

Democrats who support the bill said they felt they had got a big concession when Republicans agreed to include a provision providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal workers.

“It’s an important investment in the future of our country,” Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney said at a news conference with labor leaders who praised the provision.

Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee, said he fought for Democratic-backed policy provisions, but could not overcome opposition from congressional Republicans and the Trump administration.

“In a time of significant discord, this NDAA represents a responsible compromise that strengthens our national Defence capabilities,” Reed said in a statement.


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